When games resume, suspend blackouts

When this lockout thing is over, when the owners stop trying to sell their woes to the player, when the players stop bemoaning their treatment, both sides will be in position to court the same fans.

They should brainstorm up a long list of gestures that would help the cause, and the Florida Times-Union's Gene Frenette hit on one of them recently that would be strictly from the management side.

The league is already considering dropping the ticket-sales requirements for preventing home market blackouts by 15 percent for a time.

Says Frenette:

The NFL should go one step further: lift the blackout rule for at least the first four regular-season games as a gesture to fans, many of whom are apathetic due to labor issues. The toughest games to sell will be early on because fans are livid at players and owners fighting over billions of dollars. So why not send a message to fans they'll be assured of having all home games televised for a little while?

The NFL says it cares about the fans. In these unusually tough times, temporarily rescinding the blackout rule would be a good way to show it.

Of course this would require a largely greedy bunch to agree to something that would take away their biggest leverage for selling tickets. And it would impact less popular, less successful teams more than the big guns and loaded squads.

Still, it’s a good idea. I don’t believe the league is going ultimately to lose a lot of fans over the labor impasse. When the games are back, a huge percentage of addicted America will return to the venues and turn to the right channels.

If that channel, however, doesn’t have their home team’s game, the league will only be giving those fans who want to come back additional cause to be bitter.

That wouldn’t be a smart at a time the NFL should be dreaming up ways to make them feel important and loved.